Being Spirit Filled

What I am about to say is not intended to be controversial much less theological. This is just a thought born out of decades of ministry and a continuing commitment to be faithful to the conviction that ministry wrought in me. Listening to the words of “I Surrender All” during a worship service, I was suddenly struck with how accurately these words represent what I have come to call the “infilling” of God’s Spirit as a second work of grace. The words are different but somehow the thought is the same.

I am acutely aware of how theology counters this revelation (if, indeed, it is a revelation that surrendering all of one’s self and being Spirit-filled must be the same thing.) I pastored both in the pentecostal faith and the baptist faith where there is not only disagreement about the role “Speaking in Tongues” plays but whether or not there is a “second” work of grace necessary after salvation. This controversy knows no limits having become the subject of the interpretation of even the grammatical phrase used by pentecostals in support of their doctrine. Dana and Mantey provide a baptist grammar in support of their position; Machen is used by the pentecostals for theirs. (And I thought grammar was neutral territory.)

Then one day on the overhead were these words by CeCe Winans

All to Jesus I surrender
All to Him I freely give
I will ever love and trust Him
In His presence daily live

All to Jesus I surrender
Humbly at His feet I bow
Worldly pleasures all forsaken
Take me, Jesus, take me now,

All to Jesus I surrender
Make me Savior wholly thine
May Thy Holy Spirit fill me
May I know Thy power divine

I surrender all
I surrender all
All to Thee my blessed Savior
I surrender all

Without pushing verses of Scripture at my reader, let me only mention:

18 Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, 20 always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. – Ephesians 5:18-21

(This section is followed by exhortations to marital fidelity which may be a change of subject. I leave this to the theologians.)

My thought is somewhere in a no-man’s land of denominational teachings. But I “gave at the office” of decades of honoring denominational positions and distinctions which no longer are required of me. At the same time: I discourage anyone simply agreeing with me outright. It would be ill-advised to confuse God’s people with the rambling opinion of an old man. I encourage you to stay with your teaching on this subject. I, on the other hand, am “released” to encourage the few who, oddly, might find my thoughts a blessing.

I am glad pentecostalism still encourages “tongues-speaking” as a biblically endorsed form of worship. But no one assumes for a nano-second that Baptist people who love the Lord are not totally inside the will of God with an inspired message of Divine love—even though they have all but discarded any interest in “tongues.” My opinion is that “tongues-speaking” is an experience that should not define our theology. I also think there are times when “speaking in tongues” coincides with the “infilling.” Pentecostals call “tongues=speaking” the initial evidence of being filled with the Spirit.  As far as “evidence” goes, I would caution making “tongues” the benchmark experience. Acts 1:8 seems to say that that role belongs to the empowerment to witness.

I don’t like the word “second” as if there is not a “third” or more. “Second” in pentecostal lingo means simply “after” salvation. But what is “after” salvation (the Pentecostals are right about this)—as well as part of it (the Baptists are correct about this) is not “tongues” but the “infilling” or that place and time of total and complete surrender to the Spirit of God. As Winans penned, it is the place of giving everything we have and are to Him, of an abandoned trust in His faithfulness, regardless of circumstances, of a marked disinterest in what this world offers for happiness and pleasure, of a humble resignation to His will. Being Spirit-filled is the impassioned cry of a meek heart, “Lord, I am yours!”  As Winans summed it up:

May Thy Holy Spirit fill me/May I know Thy power divine

An old tract published by the Westminster Press out of Lancaster, PA had described this as a desire to launch out a thousand miles from everything and everyone to be lost to the world in His presence.  It is possible to drift from this sense of closeness to the Lord.  The world is too much with us.  Surrender is a constant need.

We must pay the most careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away. – Hebrews 2:1

We tend to slip away from this position and through prayer we need to return to it. It is like lifting weights for muscle tone which we can lose when we stop lifting them for any length of time.

I enjoyed sitting in a Baptist worship service and listening to the congregation singing a pentecostal song we sang years ago.  I may be wrong about this but perhaps God is slowly taking an eraser to the line of teaching that separates us.

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